Banished Bruno Fornaroli remains “integral” to Melbourne City’s hopes of silverware and should not be allowed to join another A-League club, according to his former coach Michael Valkanis.
With the Uruguayan facing a third week in exile as his feud with head coach Warren Joyce deepens, Valkanis - who had his own issues with the hard-nosed Englishman before exiting City a year ago - believes all efforts should be made to heal the rift because Fornaroli still has “a vital role to play”.
Now assistant to his ex-City boss John van’t Schip at PEC Zwolle in the Eredivisie, Valkanis is perplexed by Fornaroli’s fall from favour, with reports circulating that he has been told, along with midfielders Luke Brattan and Anthony Caceres, that he can leave the club during the January transfer window.
Sydney FC have been circling for months and would be likely to pounce.
The inference coming from Joyce, at least in 31-year-old Fornaroli’s case, is that his fitness, skinfolds and attitude are not up to scratch.
“I think the fans would be most unhappy if he was allowed to sign for a rival A-League team,” said Valkanis, who was both an assistant and briefly head coach at City before “philosophical differences” with Joyce precipitated his departure a year ago.
“To me, in many ways, Bruno is Melbourne City ... I think he remains an integral part of the club.
“He’s been a vital part of their setup for going on four years now and is one of the greatest goalscorers ever to have come to Australia.”
Joyce’s hand has been strengthened, at least fleetingly, by Sunday’s 3-0 home win over Newcastle Jets.
However, it may be but a brief reprieve, with City traveling to face league leaders Perth Glory this weekend and Fornaroli - who has netted 48 goals in 70 league appearances for City - likely to miss out for a third successive game.
“I don’t know how this is going to play out, and I’m not privy to what’s going on behind closed doors at City, but what I can say is that during my 18 months there Bruno was one of the hardest workers in the squad,” added Valkanis.
“He was fantastic in the period that JVS and I were there. He was influential in us winning the FFA Cup (in 2016) and finishing fourth on the ladder.
“I thought it was one of the club’s best seasons in terms of the football we played, and the crowd got behind the team. We won our first trophy for the club and Bruno was a big factor in that.
“He’s a crowd favourite, a fantastic character and a great player.
"He’s a goalscoring machine and his ability to hold up the ball and bring other players into the game is also exceptional.
“He can score you a goal out of nothing. His work ethic was excellent in my time there, he was our club captain and he’s going to be important if City are going to win anything this season.
“I’ve got nothing but good words to say about Bruno.”
The same can’t quite be said about Joyce though, with Valkanis admitting the pair couldn’t work together.
He departed City within months of working as Joyce’s assistant - having played the role of caretaker following van’t Schip’s return to the Netherlands in January 2017.
Asked to comment on Joyce’s methods - considered to be heavy-handed by his critics - Valkanis replied: “No comment”.
He did underscore, though, that a differing view on “the way the game should be played” was behind his exit.
“There are two vastly differing philosophies between us, and that’s the reason things didn’t work out,” he added. “I look at the world completely differently. That’s the truth of it.
“All I can say is that we simply don’t see football the same way. There are no wrongs or rights in football, everyone has their own philosophy and the way they see the game.
“We are just totally different in that regard. It was best that we no longer worked together.”